Why Sean Lock's career purple patch is set to continue
The stand-up isn't bothered about being the 19th funniest comedian in the world but, he tells Andrew Johnston, that's because he doesn't take anything personally
Sean Lock's latest stage outing sees the panel show stalwart return to his first love: stand-up comedy.
Purple Van Man – which comes to Belfast's Waterfront next Friday – was inspired by the tabloid cliché of the 'white van man', and gathers together all of Lock's characteristically daft thoughts and opinions in an evening of inspired jibber-jabber.
And with Sean having been at the wheel of his 'purple van' since April, the show has been serviced and test-driven to the point where Belfast – which comes towards the end of the mammoth run of dates – is in for almost the finished article. "I'm not just saying this, but it's the best time to see the show," Sean grins. "It's a finely tuned, proper symphony now."
The Chertsey-born comic remains a hugely popular live attraction, but after turning 50 earlier this year and with a young family at home – he lives in Lewes, East Sussex, with his partner and their two daughters and son – Sean has mixed feelings about heading out on the road for months on end.
"At the start of the tour, it's like, 'Oh, brilliant, I'm away, I'm staying in hotels,'" he says. "But as it goes on, you start to really miss your family, and it gets repetitive and dull. It's a year of hard work, but it's not my entire life. There's no need to feel sorry for me!"
Indeed, much of his working life these days is spent in a television studio. As well as his ongoing role as a team captain on 8 out of 10 Cats he took over hosting duties on Argumental in 2011, and continues to make guest appearances on the likes of QI, Mock The Week and Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
Television comedy has been good to him, and he has short shrift for fellow comedians who turn their noses up at it – people such as Reginald D Hunter, who has ranted on stage about how he doesn't enjoy doing TV work. "Maybe he's not very good at it," retorts Sean, mischievously.
"I think it's a really good way for comedians to be funny without using up their stand-up material. It's a frustrating environment because other people are in control, and I think what stand-ups like – what Reg probably likes – is being in control. But you have to surrender control, not just to producers, but to the other people in the show. You just deal with that.
"The most important thing anyone taught me in this business was not to take anything personally."
Sean backtracks a bit, though, making sure I know he was only joking with his remark about Hunter. "If he reads that, it'll really wind him up," he chuckles. "Reg is a very good comic."
Sean's mild apprehension towards the press dates back to 1993, when a stint performing with Robert Newman and David Baddiel led to him being credited as having been the first comedian to play Wembley Arena, even though it's completely untrue.
"It's one of those wonderful myths that despite the truth being out there it persists," Sean marvels. "Everyone assumes I supported them, but I didn't. I was in their show. Basically, I gave them opportunities to get changed into the various characters. But because of petty, lazy, jealous journalists, who were very resentful of Rob and Dave, they just went, 'Oh, they weren't the first people to play Wembley. It was Sean Lock.'"
Not taking things too seriously seems to be what keeps Sean sane in the often crazy world of comedy. And unlike many other 'celebrities', he's apparently not obsessed with Googling himself. He even claims not to have known he had gone from 55th to 19th in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups list.
"I was 19, was I?" he smirks. "I've gone up in the world. It obviously means I'm better than Tommy Cooper, because I think he came about 40. No, obviously it's ridiculous. It's filling airtime. It's rubbish television. Utterly worthless. Chewing gum for the eyes."
And you can quote him on that.